BUFFALO GROVE, IL — The police department has a furry new member. “Gus”, a 4-year-old white Labrador retriever and standard poodle mix, recently joined the Buffalo Grove Police Department as a therapy dog.
Brittany Wilson, who has worked as a police social worker since 2016, introduced Gus to the Buffalo Grove Village Board at a recent meeting.
“I’m thrilled to be part of a program that comforts those who are going through a series of challenges or traumas,” she said. “Gus will provide a truly valuable service to the Buffalo Grove community.”
Wilson is also a member of the police department’s Crisis Response Team and the Officer Peer Support Program.
In 2018, Wilson first pitched the idea of adding a therapy dog to the department. She found a nonprofit that provides therapy dogs to law enforcement, but was put on a three-year waiting period. Additionally, the pandemic slowed the process and Wilson had to look elsewhere.
She eventually found Paws and Stripes, a non-profit organization that has been providing fully trained therapy dogs to police departments, as well as handler training, at no cost, since 2006. Facilitated by the Sheriff’s Office of Brevard County in Titusville, Florida, the program pairs trained and carefully selected inmates with shelter dogs who are trained to provide therapy services with law enforcement. All selected dogs receive basic obedience training and are selected for their temperament and behavioral characteristics.
Wilson and Gus recently completed a 40-hour advanced training course through Paws and Stripes in late 2021, to become certified as Nationally Registered Therapy Dog Team Members.
“[Brittany] is an essential part of the police service and helps provide the highest quality of service because of its clinical experience, advanced training and being a trusted resource,” said Deputy Chief Michael Szos.
Szos also praised Wilson’s work in helping hundreds of clients with a variety of matters, including domestic disputes, custody disputes, housing issues and mental health issues.
Gus will help with public relations and community engagement, in addition to helping with victim advocacy, mental health and trauma response, according to police. It will also be a valuable resource for first responders dealing with the stress and impact of workplace experiences, while supporting service members with overall well-being.
Buffalo Grove police said many local businesses donated for routine care and ongoing training for Gus.
“Gus is very well supported within this community,” Wilson said. “We are so grateful to Gus and the smiles he brings on a daily basis, not just for me, but for the officers and my clients. It’s priceless.”